First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Nine o’clock on a Sunday morning, with streamers of cloud hiding the top of Worcestershire Beacon and the whole Malvern range spread under a cool and cloudy sky. Dew soaked our trousers as we brushed through the pastures and corn stubbles, walking north in a patchwork countryside of green and gold with the Malverns bulking on our right hand.
In the straggly hamlet of Evendine, a screech among the masses petunias of a beautiful cottage garden made us jump. ‘Oh, that’s Harry our young bantam cockerel,’ chuckled the lady of the house, leaning out of her window. ‘That’s his little trick, startling people as they go by. A blonde with highlights, he is. We’re getting him a couple of lady friends to shut him up!’
We struck off down a farm lane towards the high wrinkled ramparts of the British Camp, one of several ancient forts and strongholds along the ridge of the Malverns. Long-tailed tits and blackbirds lifted their voices among the oaks and overshot coppiced hazels of Hatfield Coppice as we trod the broad track of the Worcestershire Way southwards along the foot of the hills. We fingered the green, apricot-like fruit of a bullace tree that leaned across the path, making one of those fantasy resolutions never actually to be fulfilled, to return and pick the ripened yield for a Christmas of bullace gin around the fire.
Following the medieval Shire Ditch up the spine of Broad Down, then on up the magnificent quadruple ramparts of the British Camp, I thought of proud Caractacus defying the Romans from these heights in 51AD. The last stand of the Catuvellaunian king probably didn’t happen here, in point of fact, despite what legends say. But watching children in bright football shirts swooping like buzzards down the slopes, and looking away into Wales and up over the Midland plains – a hundred-mile view – it seemed a place where old spirits might linger.
Looking down, we made out the churchyard of St Wulstan’s at Little Malvern, where Edward Elgar lies. ‘If ever you’re walking on the hills and hear this,’ said Elgar of the cello concerto he composed below the Malverns, ‘don’t be frightened – it’s only me.’
Start & finish: British Camp car park, on A449 opposite Malvern Hills Hotel, Wynds Point, Jubilee Drive, Malvern WR13 6DW (OS ref SO 763404)
Getting there: Train (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Colwall (¾ mile from Evendine by footpath). Bus (www.herefordshire.gov.uk): 44B or Malvern Hills Hopper. Road: M5, M50 (Jct 1); A38, A4104 via Upton-on-Severn to Little Malvern; A449 towards Ledbury.
Walk (3½ miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer 190): Cross A449 (take care!); up B4232 (‘West Malvern’). In 10 yd, by public lavatories on left, are 2 fingerposts; follow right-hand one (past WCs). In 50 yd, cross stile; keep ahead downhill, across field and over stile with 2 yellow arrows/YA; keep ahead to cross stream and stile (760409); ahead (YAs) to road by Upper House in Evendine (759413). Left for ¼ mile; just past Lower House Farm, left (755412; fingerpost, YA) along lane. In ⅓ mile, left over stile by Oldcastle Farm gates (756406; YA), then 2 more stiles, before aiming diagonally left uphill (757405) to cross stile at corner of Hatfield Coppice (758404; YA). In 30 yd, right over stile (YA); follow Worcestershire Way/WW through trees to cross A449.
Continue south on WW. In ⅓ mile cross steep track (758396); in another ⅓ mile, cross stile with reservoir on right (761392). In 200 yd, left (YA) off WW up track for 100 yd to saddle of ground where 5 paths meet (762390). Sharp left uphill on broad gravelly track; in 30 yd, at ‘Hangman’s Hill, Broad Down’ marker stone, bear right uphill on track which swings left to follow Malvern ridge northwards. In ¼ mile descend left to toposcope on saddle (762395); follow ‘British Camp Earthworks’ sign to summit. Continue on track to second summit (760400), and down to car park.
NB – More walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk
Lunch: Malvern Hills Hotel (01684-540690; www.malvernhillshotel.co.uk); café/kiosk at car park